News for Tuesday 050316
By Dave Graichen
Cleco utility customers can expect a $475 credit on their bills beginning in July, as a result of the Pineville-based company’s sale to foreign investors. Cleco spokesperson Jennifer Cahill says the Louisiana Public Service Commission created this credit as a part of their transaction.
Cahill says the credit will be applied until it runs out, meaning some customers will not have to pay a utility bill for a couple of months.
With a little more than 2 years on the job under his belt, LSUA chancellor Daniel Howard announced yesterday that he will step down from his position at the end of August. Howard plans to move back to his hometown of Florence, Alabama. No details have been released yet about the process to replace him.
Louisiana’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, as 78-percent of the Class of 2015 received their diplomas. State Education Superintendent John White, says that’s almost a 3-percent increase over the previous year, which is the second largest annual gain in 10 years. He believes more students are graduating, because educators raised the bar.
Legislation is heading to the governor’s desk that curbs the cost of the TOPS scholarship program, but it will likely mean recipients will have to pay a portion of their tuition. The taxpayer funded scholarship program costs the state nearly 300-million dollars and Lafayette Representative Nancy Landry says the legislature must do something to rein in its costs.
The measure passed on a 74-20 vote and heads to the governor’s desk.
Louisiana Senate has approved legislation that would send 17-year-old non-violent offenders through the juvenile court system, instead of adult court. The measure was approved on a 33-4 vote. The bill, which is supported by Governor Edwards, heads to the House for more discussion.
One of the governor’s main bills for the session, raising the minimum wage is having a difficult time gaining approval in the Senate. The measure barely got past the Senate Labor committee and is now stuck in the Senate Finance committee if approved, the bill would result in pay raises for the state’s lowest paid workers.
Baton Rouge Representative Ted James was unable to get enough votes from the House Commerce Committee to advance a measure that would allow law enforcement to unlock a homicide victims’ phone, if they were able to get a court order. James called the bill the “Brittney Mills Act.” She was murdered over a year ago and her case is still unsolved.
James might bring the bill up for another vote.
Governor John Bel Edwards has kicked off his statewide tour to discuss Medicaid expansion. Over the next month, Edwards and Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Dr. Rebekah Gee, will visit cities to raise awareness and answer questions about who will be eligible to enroll for the government health insurance on June 1st. State health officials say the expanded Medicaid program will be able to cover an estimated 350,000 working poor individuals.
Governor John Bel Edwards says FEMA has denied Louisiana’s appeal for a major disaster declaration after severe storms and tornadoes devastated several communities in late February. He says the agency indicated in decision that the impact from the event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.
May is Air Quality Awareness month, and the Department of Environmental Quality says Louisiana’s air quality is better than it’s been since the start of the Industrial Revolution. DEQ senior scientist Vivian Aucoin says that’s because they have improved the quality of the air in parts of the state where it was lacking. But the Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Anne Rolfes, doesn’t think Louisiana’s air is any cleaner. She says the state does a poor job of monitoring the air in areas where it’s the worst. Rolfes says in neighborhoods near oil refineries and other plants, the air just stinks, literally. She says her organization works with the EPA to get air quality readings in those areas, and their information shows the air is not any cleaner.
Officials across the Northshore announce the start of “Operation Angel” – a program whereby a person addicted to drugs can walk into a police station and ask for help instead of being charged with a crime. Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz says it’s time law enforcement changes the way they do business. He says the only requirement of Operation Angel is that an addict asks for help and wants to change their life.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s office says they’ve made an arrest in the death of a 16-year-old Kenner girl who was found dead in a ditch in St. Rose. The man arrested is Daniel Beckley and he’s been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jorian White. Beckley is the longtime boyfriend of the victim’s mother. Investigators say Beckley was the last known adult to see White alive.